BT, Digital Boost launch free mentoring programme for SMEs in UK

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BT has launched a new mentoring programme to support small businesses during the pandemic, in partnership with Digital Boost, a free non-profit platform which unites digital experts with leaders of small businesses.

BT has pledged to deliver free one-to-one coaching sessions to at least 1,000 small businesses as part of its Small Business Support Scheme, which launched last Summer.

The mentoring initiative is open to all BT employees and has been successfully trialled with a number of small businesses prior to launch. BT has enlisted the expertise of its colleagues across the business – including senior executives – to upskill small businesses on a range of topics, including Cyber Security, Marketing, Social Media, Strategy, and more.

Digital Boost will connect individuals from small businesses with relevant BT experts via its free online platform, where small businesses are able to register their interest in booking a free virtual mentoring session.

BT launched its Small Business Support scheme last Summer – a broad range of measures to help small businesses get better positioned for growth during and beyond the pandemic. The scheme aims to do this by boosting the connectivity, cashflow and confidence that many small firms say they lack as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

The new mentoring programme forms a key part of BT’s efforts to drive skills and optimism amongst small firms, with an earlier survey conducted by BT and Small Business Britain revealing that more than half (53 per cent) lack confidence in the future of their business. 63 per cent of small firms felt they needed more support in marketing and sales; 44 per cent wanted more assistance with digital skills; while 36 per cent lacked skills in building business resilience. BT is responding to these concerns by increasing access to free, expert advice to 1,000 small firms initially, with a view to further expanding the reach of the programme over the coming months.

Pete Oliver, MD SME for BT’s Enterprise unit, said: “Helping small businesses to acquire new skills and boost their confidence during these exceptionally challenging times is a central part of BT’s Small Business Support Scheme. We’ve already equipped a further 20,000 small businesses with digital skills since the launch of the scheme and now we’re going even further by introducing a free mentoring programme. By partnering with Digital Boost, we can engage our own colleagues around the need to step up and support small businesses, with experts around the company volunteering their time as BT mentors.

“Our ambition is to scale this very quickly, involving colleagues from all levels, including the senior leadership team. I have already signed up as a mentor and look forward to learning a huge amount and helping a small business to thrive into the future.”

Sherry Coutu, Founder at Digital Boost, said: “At Digital Boost, we help those who work for and lead small businesses and charities to survive the COVID-19 crisis and be more competitive in the long-run. BT is a key partner in our effort to help prepare the UK to build back better after the pandemic.”

Brett O’Brien, Internal Engagement Manager at BT, has been involved in the pilot of the mentoring scheme, providing his sales expertise to a small business. Brett said: “I volunteered to be a Digital Boost mentor as I felt it was my duty to support the small businesses that are trying to weather the storm of COVID-19. I have lots of friends and family working in small businesses that are no longer in work, so I felt personally motivated to support the small businesses that are fighting for survival. My expertise is in sales/partnerships and I have so far conducted two mentoring sessions. The feedback from them was great and I feel a sense of pride knowing that I’m making a direct impact to help these small firms stay in business.”